MAY was a month many investors would rather forget as heightened worries about Greece and other debt-laden European economies sent sharemarkets and the dollar plunging.
The benchmark ASX200 share index trimmed its losses during the day but still ended about 7.3 per cent lower for May - the worst monthly return since Europe's debt crisis erupted in May 2010.
The index closed down 17.9 points, or 0.44 per cent, at 4076.3 points after being about 1.5 per cent lower at one point. The broader All Ordinaries index fell 15 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4133.7. The index fell about 7.5 per cent in May, or the equivalent of about $100 billion in market value.
The biggest losers for the month among the major stocks included Aquarius Platinum losing 45 per cent, Whitehaven losing 25 per cent, Toll Holdings losing 21 per cent, OneSteel losing 19 per cent and Fortescue Metals losing 18 per cent. Top gainers for May included Ramsey Health, up 7.7 per cent, News Corp up 6.8 per cent, AGL Energy up 4.7 per cent, Coca-Cola Amatil up 3.2 per cent and CSL up 2.7 per cent.
European shares, meanwhile, opened slightly higher after Wednesday's steep losses, with the FTSEurofirst 300 up 0.4 per cent at 979.65 points, on track for its biggest monthly loss since August when markets were similarly beset by fears over Europe's debt crisis.
The dollar edged back above the US97? level after earlier touching six-month lows on a global retreat to the greenback.
Yields on government debt maturing in two years or longer fell to record lows as a report showed home-building approvals dropped in April, boosting speculation the Reserve Bank will cut its cash rate again when it meets on Tuesday.
"Spain is becoming a huge problem," Derek Mumford, a director in Sydney at Rochford Capital, said. "A lot of money is going to be needed to bail them out. The Aussie [dollar] will inevitably be dragged down to a very important support area at US94.50? to US95?."
The 10-year Australian yield slid below 3 per cent for the first time, to as low as 2.856 per cent, the lowest in data compiled by Bloomberg since 1969. The rate on two-year notes fell to 2.108 per cent, also an all-time low.